Thursday, April 18, 2024

NC Golf: Memorable championship moments

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Payne Stewart’s unforgettable victory at the 1999 U.S. Open, contested that year for the first time on Pinehurst No. 2. With the tournament returning to “The Deuce” in June for the third time since Stewart’s win, we thought we’d look back on 10 other memorable championship moments in North Carolina during the past quarter century.

2001 Women’s U.S. Open (Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club): Australian Karrie Webb’s final-round 68 made her the first woman since 1972 to win consecutive U.S. Opens. Hosting its second women’s national championship in five years, Pine Needles was the perfect canvas for Webb’s combination of power, finesse and resilience.

2003 ACC Men’s Championship (Old North State Club): The closest finish in ACC Tournament history saw Clemson (865) come from behind to narrowly overcome Wake Forest (866) and UNC (869), capturing the fourth title for coach Larry Penley’s program during a seven-year stretch. Entering the event, the Tigers ranked No. 1 nationally, followed by Wake Forest (2nd), UNC (10), Georgia Tech (15), and N.C. State (16). UNC’s Richard Treis won the individual title by two shots over WFU’s Bill Haas.

2013 Wyndham Championship (Sedgefield Country Club):  Just two weeks after his 23rd birthday, Patrick Reed used an extraordinary approach shot on the second playoff hole against 20-year-old Jordan Spieth to secure his inaugural PGA Tour victory. Five years later, both were major champions and Spieth was three-quarters of the way to a career grand slam. The former Greater Greensboro Open endured financial challenges before gaining the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts sponsorship in 2007 and moving to Sedgefield Country Club in 2008.

2014 Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens (Pinehurst No. 2): The back-to-back U.S. Opens left an indelible mark, as No. 2 hosted both the men’s and women’s championships in consecutive weeks. In the men’s event, Martin Kaymer led wire-to-wire in wrapping up his second major title. A week later, Michelle Wie clinched her maiden major victory, fulfilling the promise she showed as a teenage prodigy.

2017 PGA Championship (Quail Hollow Club): Charlotte’s annual PGA Tour site hosted one of golf’s four major championships for the first time, setting records for ticket and merchandise sales. More than 200,000 people were on site for practice and championship rounds. Justin Thomas, then 24, won the first of his two PGA Championships.

2019 U.S. Amateur (Pinehurst Nos. 2 & 4): William Holcomb IV became a fan favorite during his unexpected run to the semifinals, especially with veteran Pinehurst caddie Keith Silva on his bag. Moments after falling to John Augenstein in the semis, Holcomb and his wife, Graycie Lee, grabbed a few wedges and headed to The Cradle, the resort’s 9-hole short course, where Holcomb aced consecutive holes. It’s the only time that feat has been accomplished since the Gil Hanse-designed par-3 course debuted in 2017.

2020 Women’s North & South Amateur (Pinehurst No. 2): During her final-round win over Allisen Corpuz, Rachel Kuehn had her mother, Brenda, as her caddie. A former Wake Forest University standout, Brenda was eight months pregnant with Rachel in 2001 when she competed at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles. Since 2003, 15 champions of the Pinehurst event have gone on to earn LPGA Tour status.

2020 North & South Amateur
(Pinehurst No. 2): Ty Strafaci became the first grandson of an N&S Am champ to capture the longstanding event, and he did it with his father as his caddie. Strafaci’s grandfather, Frank Strafaci, won in 1938 and 1939. Honorable mention moment: In 2021, Jackson Van Paris, a Pinehurst native now starring at Vanderbilt University, advancing to the finals with a dramatic chip-in on the 20th hole to defeat his veteran opponent, Chad Wilfong. Van Paris is credited with arguably the finest shot in the championship’s last few decades.

2022 Presidents Cup (Quail Hollow Club): The 14th edition of the event pitting Americans versus internationals was originally scheduled for fall 2021, but was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Quail Hollow’s inaugural hosting of the matches, Team USA, captained by Charlotte native Davis Love III, retained the cup for the ninth consecutive time.

2023 U.S. Adaptive Open Golf Championships (Pinehurst No. 6): After completing her final round of the USGA’s 15th, and newest, national championship, 31-year-old Kelsey Koch, who was born without a left tibia bone and had her leg amputated at 11 months old, was proposed to on the green by her boyfriend and caddie, Josh White. (She said ‘yes.’) The Pinehurst No. 6 Community Association memorialized the moment by bequeathing the happy couple a
lifetime membership.

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